Hey everybody and welcome to our Intel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E) and X79 platform preview. A rather uncommon and slightly unexpected article to write alright, as the architecture behind both, the X79 chipset and the Sandy Bridge-E processors really (initially) were intended for the server platform, but somehow its finding its way towards the consumer channel.
Intel launched the P67/Z68 chipsets and accompanying four core Sandy Bridge processors like the Core i5 2500, Core i7 2600 and recently released Core i7 2700 as mainstream products. That means that the enthusiast segment has a gap that needs to be filled as an X58 with a Gulftown processor like the 980X/990X is already two-three years old. It's exactly there where Sandy Bridge-E and X79 comes into play.
The actual release of Sandy Bridge-E is somewhat peculiar to market... but with a thirst for high-end all manufacturers designed and then redesigned a series of new motherboards that will blow you off your socks.
The biggest competitor for Sandy-Bridge-E, believe it or not, is the X58 platform released in 2008, pop a nice Core i7 980X/990X on there and the raw performance is still fantastic. In retrospect as such one could say that X58/980X (Gulftown) and Z68/2600K (Sandy Bridge) have been products that might have been a little too good.
Today however, we have an article covering the Intel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E) and X79 based motherboard. An update to the true high-end six-core processor series aimed at consumers. A processor based on 32nm technology that comes with most of the bells and whistles we have learned to like and love of the current Sandy Bridge processor generation.
Three processors will be released; two Sandy Bridge-E CPUs will have six cores, one model has four cores, hyper-threaded to either eight or twelve threads, the AVX instruction set is here and all processors have a steep but fair 130W TDP. Then there's of course that overclocking potential that the 1st generation Sandy Bridge processors offered, it alone could make this platform downright impressive if that gets your freak on.
Impressive yes, but sure there are obstacles as well, the processor needs a new motherboard as it comes on a new processor socket, LGA 2011. That means reinvesting in a new high-end motherboard probably costing say 200~300 EUR, and then investing in a new Sandy-Bridge-E processor which is probably going to cost you a steep 900~1000 EUR for the most high-end model (which we will test today).
Before we dive into the article, let me make you aware of the fact that we test with a final sample X79 motherboard from MSI. This article will also review the MSI X79A-GD65 8D. Next to that the fellas from G.Skill provided a Sandy-Bridge-E quad channel memory kit, that blew us off our feet. 16GB G.Skill RipjawsZ series memory that with the flick of a BIOS setting to XMP runs stable at 2133 MHz -- in quad channel.
Anyway, head on over to the next page where we'll discuss Sandy-Bridge-E processors, the respective models. We'll also have a chat about MSI's X79 motherboard and chipset and then will throw a decent photo-shoot and a benchmark suite at the products and get an indication what performance is like with the Intel Core i7-3960X (Sandy Bridge-E) and X79 Platform.
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